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Midweek Motivation Everything Is A Test

Trial and error 'metabolism' is one of the most popular ways to build vacation rental muscle.

But once you've reached a sweet spot, trial and error metabolism tends to slow: either because you've build a seamless machine OR you've lost motivation for growth.

One way to mix things up is to adopt the mentality that "everything is a test."

"Everything is a test" gives us the confidence to try a myriad of mini experiments that MIGHT work.

"Everything is a test" also provides a sense of comfort in knowing that some tests succeed, but (MOST) others fail. That's life! That's OK. (You can browse the Share Your Success section for a database of successful tests).

"Everything is a test" is a close relative of kaizen, one of the defining personality traits of Listing Site Non-Dependence. It is a mentality that fosters innovation and growth.

In his thread titled Making My Houses Better Through Continual Improvement, @ROster commented "I recently decided to focus on the guests' experience. The goal is to have repeat customers say, "Wow, you've added so many new things since the last time I was here!"

DISCUSSION: What is one test that you ran lately that either succeeded marvelously or failed hard? What is one area of your business where "everything is a test" has been most fun?
 

BrendaS

Sampiere (Brenda) Family
Inner Circle
We recently overhauled our guest access information format. Previously it was an 8.5X11 traditional double sided PDF sent to guests and was also printed and in a sheet protector at the property. Sample below:

53E44113-6928-4755-BFE3-F970A807709E.jpeg

We all know guests don’t read, much less anything on page 2.

I worked with my brilliant 30 year old niece and generated a very mobile friendly set of Google Slides per property with super short bites of information with icons used when possible and the information is accessed via a link with sub titles:

Getting here
While you’re here
Grocery stores
Beaches and fun
Restaurants
As you leave

We print all but the Getting Here slides on nice paper and display them on the refrigerator with magnets and a wall in the property so we didn’t need to laminate the paper or put the information in a plastic sheet protector.

We have gotten great feedback. Screen shots from the mobile view below:

C4DE9BE0-21F7-47B0-B0EB-44492673A740.jpeg

C17F821A-75C0-4896-BB60-15A6FF3DCF9B.jpeg
C5DB1641-6282-47D2-A78C-F0D00CA81C40.png
C6AF3379-8BAC-43CA-AADE-41CFD36FF3B1.png
14FCE845-D759-4784-B499-EBFFA89AB705.png
 

Christina

Counselor
Inner Circle
I love the slides idea! Well done. Also, I really liked your language about 'make our day' by starting towels and the dishwasher.

In other news, we are contemplating a way to replace the ADW for longer term stays. The accidental damage waiver helps us replace broken things by guests and is a wonderful way to handle getting guests to tell us while in property so we can arrange a repair, particularly during a turnaround. However, with longer stays, since it is a flat rate, this causes consternation b/c in a two-week period, we typically have four to six reservations - each with a damage waiver. We may 'try' this on a per night per sleeps basis . . . it does get expensive for the guest fairly quickly though.
 

Robin

Counselor
Inner Circle
We are located in the Colorado Rockies. We noticed that we were increasingly getting requests for air-conditioned homes in the summer. Sometimes it's just a default because that is what guests from out of state are used to in Summer, even though few locals have AC in their homes in the mountains. But, sometimes it does get warm here and we may have a week of warm night-time temperatures.

We have mentioned this many times to homeowners without AC, and not everyone is ready to make the investment to add AC. Rather than wait, and have to say "sorry you were warm last night, but the owner of this home didn't want to make the investment..." we purchased portable AC units and offered to rent these to guests. Some guests take multiple AC units for the week (in advance). Other times, after a warm night, they are only too happy to pay for a little cold air.

At the end of the summer, we can report to the owner that we were able to keep guests in their homes happy using our AC units, and we generated several $000 in additional revenue (for us) with our AC units. It has helped a few get over the hump and make the investment.
 

Gregerholt

Attaché
Asheville Hosts
Trial and error 'metabolism' is one of the most popular ways to build vacation rental muscle.

But once you've reached a sweet spot, trial and error metabolism tends to slow: either because you've build a seamless machine OR you've lost motivation for growth.

One way to mix things up is to adopt the mentality that "everything is a test."

"Everything is a test" gives us the confidence to try a myriad of mini experiments that MIGHT work.

"Everything is a test" also provides a sense of comfort in knowing that some tests succeed, but (MOST) others fail. That's life! That's OK. (You can browse the Share Your Success section for a database of successful tests).

"Everything is a test" is a close relative of kaizen, one of the defining personality traits of Listing Site Non-Dependence. It is a mentality that fosters innovation and growth.

In his thread titled Making My Houses Better Through Continual Improvement, @ROster commented "I recently decided to focus on the guests' experience. The goal is to have repeat customers say, "Wow, you've added so many new things since the last time I was here!"

DISCUSSION: What is one test that you ran lately that either succeeded marvelously or failed hard? What is one area of your business where "everything is a test" has been most fun?
One test I tried that was successful was in August 2021 I started to require COVID vaccinations for all guests. This was well accepted and increased my bookings
 

JanS

Attaché
Inner Circle
We are located in the Colorado Rockies. We noticed that we were increasingly getting requests for air-conditioned homes in the summer. Sometimes it's just a default because that is what guests from out of state are used to in Summer, even though few locals have AC in their homes in the mountains. But, sometimes it does get warm here and we may have a week of warm night-time temperatures.

We have mentioned this many times to homeowners without AC, and not everyone is ready to make the investment to add AC. Rather than wait, and have to say "sorry you were warm last night, but the owner of this home didn't want to make the investment..." we purchased portable AC units and offered to rent these to guests. Some guests take multiple AC units for the week (in advance). Other times, after a warm night, they are only too happy to pay for a little cold air.

At the end of the summer, we can report to the owner that we were able to keep guests in their homes happy using our AC units, and we generated several $000 in additional revenue (for us) with our AC units. It has helped a few get over the hump and make the investment.
Have to get on my sustainability rant...portable A/C units are massive energy users. Our local power provider has big rebates to convert homes to heat pumps, which heat in the winter and cool in the summer.

Might we all suggest to our owners that they convert to heat pumps? In addition to year-round energy savings, they'll have the added advantage of heating or cooling as our climate continues to change.
 

Gabor

Counselor
Inner Circle
Arrival management is probably the most pivotal part! They say you never have a second chance to make a good first impression -- so true!
Return guests find it comforting and reassuring to find that our place is the same. They came back because they liked what we offered. However, they will notice and appreciate subtle changes if they are relevant to them.

The balancing act is between consistency and continuous improvement in the vein of "everything is a test".
 

Matt Landau

Ambassador
Staff member
Might we all suggest to our owners that they convert to heat pumps? In addition to year-round energy savings, they'll have the added advantage of heating or cooling as our climate continues to change.
Do you have any article you can share that would make this persuading process easy for property managers? Something that explains the comparative benefits either environmentally and/or financially?
 

JanS

Attaché
Inner Circle
Do you have any article you can share that would make this persuading process easy for property managers? Something that explains the comparative benefits either environmentally and/or financially?
Yes, here's a good article from Montgomery County, MD. Each jurisdiction will have information about available rebates. These days most power providers offer incentives to help us use less electricity.

 

Susanne

Counselor
Inner Circle
This week had me at Kaizen - great topic! I want to go through this thread in detail to read about the wins.

My problem was: Not all guests were reading arrival info in my guidebook. They would call near arrival and sound concerned,
confused or annoyed. "Why were guests not studying my lovely guest guide" I kept wondering? A better question turned out to be
"What could I do to improve their experience?".

In Kaizen ask the question five times to get to the root of the problem.
  • the email was being sent too early, no one cares about this two weeks before
  • we all feel email bombed, people just don't always reliably read emails
  • the critical arrival info was buried in my guest guide. Not really buried, but if they open the email and don't open the guest guide, that is still failure mode
  • when guests leave their cell service area and are roaming, they turn off data to avoid charges and probably check email only when in WiFi
  • some guests actually pledge to not read one single email once they are on vacation (good for them! I know they will have a great visit with that attitude)
All of this resulted in a new communication process. I switched to a Just in Time approach. Give them only the info they need at the right moment when they need it.
  • Upon booking, I email a nice thank you along with a digital guest guidebook. I also outline exactly what to expect for subsequent communication
  • Two weeks before arrival, I email my digital guest guidebook link and any updates on the area.
  • Two days before, I switch to text with a link to the guest book, this time on their phone extracting the one sentence of key arrival info and putting it in the text
  • the evening before arrival, I send a text asking for their estimated ETA - nothing else
  • the morning of arrival, the REALLY critical day for dialled-up communication, I provide a brief recap of just the code number and where they will park-nothing else.
This is working. No more concerning questions about "how do I get in" from guests? No more tracking down guests for ETA on our end.

For my new website refresh, I went through all the reviews from all sites this week. Excellent communication was probably the second review comment next to the great location and view.
 

JanS

Attaché
Inner Circle
This week had me at Kaizen - great topic! I want to go through this thread in detail to read about the wins.

My problem was: Not all guests were reading arrival info in my guidebook. They would call near arrival and sound concerned,
confused or annoyed. "Why were guests not studying my lovely guest guide" I kept wondering? A better question turned out to be
"What could I do to improve their experience?".

In Kaizen ask the question five times to get to the root of the problem.
  • the email was being sent too early, no one cares about this two weeks before
  • we all feel email bombed, people just don't always reliably read emails
  • the critical arrival info was buried in my guest guide. Not really buried, but if they open the email and don't open the guest guide, that is still failure mode
  • when guests leave their cell service area and are roaming, they turn off data to avoid charges and probably check email only when in WiFi
  • some guests actually pledge to not read one single email once they are on vacation (good for them! I know they will have a great visit with that attitude)
All of this resulted in a new communication process. I switched to a Just in Time approach. Give them only the info they need at the right moment when they need it.
  • Upon booking, I email a nice thank you along with a digital guest guidebook. I also outline exactly what to expect for subsequent communication
  • Two weeks before arrival, I email my digital guest guidebook link and any updates on the area.
  • Two days before, I switch to text with a link to the guest book, this time on their phone extracting the one sentence of key arrival info and putting it in the text
  • the evening before arrival, I send a text asking for their estimated ETA - nothing else
  • the morning of arrival, the REALLY critical day for dialled-up communication, I provide a brief recap of just the code number and where they will park-nothing else.
This is working. No more concerning questions about "how do I get in" from guests? No more tracking down guests for ETA on our end.

For my new website refresh, I went through all the reviews from all sites this week. Excellent communication was probably the second review comment next to the great location and view.
Susanne,
This whole communication piece is huge. Generally, other short term venues like hotels and campgrounds don't do this, and I think it's key to helping us attract and create positive relationships with our guests (not to mention our neighborhoods).

Clarify for me - your guests are seeing your messages through email from your management company?

When they book through an OTA their email messaging hits their inboxes with that giant well-known brand (Airbnb, VRBO, etc.) as a trigger to remind them of their getaway.

Makes me think this is a key moment: they need to recognize your company and associate it with their reservation. The company name and the subject line are going to be critical in grabbing inbox attention (which translates to having them open and read the awesome info you send).
 

Susanne

Counselor
Inner Circle
Susanne,
This whole communication piece is huge. Generally, other short term venues like hotels and campgrounds don't do this, and I think it's key to helping us attract and create positive relationships with our guests (not to mention our neighborhoods).

Clarify for me - your guests are seeing your messages through email from your management company?

When they book through an OTA their email messaging hits their inboxes with that giant well-known brand (Airbnb, VRBO, etc.) as a trigger to remind them of their getaway.

Makes me think this is a key moment: they need to recognize your company and associate it with their reservation. The company name and the subject line are going to be critical in grabbing inbox attention (which translates to having them open and read the awesome info you send).
Hey Jan,

Great question. The emails are automated through Owner Rez customized to appear to come from my own property email. They often don't realize it is automated and reply thanking me for the info.

The text messages come through a Ruebarue property assigned phone number. We can pivot that phone number to whoever is responsible for the guest's arrival or buzzing them in as the door is also set to that number. This is the best tool ever as the guest has no idea that an alternate plan has been made. Everyone on the team gets to see the thread of text messages with a guest. I don't need to give anyone access to anything other than Ruebarue. It is highly efficient and guests do not feel shuffled around.

I am hoping to be mostly independent of OTA so have built this system knowing there is a bit of redundancy with the OTA communication. This will matter less and less as time goes on.

Thanks for the prompt on the titles, I am going to revisit that to see how they can be tweaked. I have changed email content but not titles.

Susanne
 

JanS

Attaché
Inner Circle
Hey Jan,

Great question. The emails are automated through Owner Rez customized to appear to come from my own property email. They often don't realize it is automated and reply thanking me for the info.

The text messages come through a Ruebarue property assigned phone number. We can pivot that phone number to whoever is responsible for the guest's arrival or buzzing them in as the door is also set to that number. This is the best tool ever as the guest has no idea that an alternate plan has been made. Everyone on the team gets to see the thread of text messages with a guest. I don't need to give anyone access to anything other than Ruebarue. It is highly efficient and guests do not feel shuffled around.

I am hoping to be mostly independent of OTA so have built this system knowing there is a bit of redundancy with the OTA communication. This will matter less and less as time goes on.

Thanks for the prompt on the titles, I am going to revisit that to see how they can be tweaked. I have changed email content but not titles.

Susanne
That happens to me too! I consider that a successful automated message, when a guest writes back : )

An assignable phone number: useful tool, haven't heard of that before. Thanks!
Jan
 

JPrugh

Envoy
Inner Circle
Have to get on my sustainability rant...portable A/C units are massive energy users. Our local power provider has big rebates to convert homes to heat pumps, which heat in the winter and cool in the summer.

Might we all suggest to our owners that they convert to heat pumps? In addition to year-round energy savings, they'll have the added advantage of heating or cooling as our climate continues to change.
Keep in mind JanS JanS that asking homeowners to install heat pumps (I call them minisplits) is a very big ask. They can become quite pricey if converting an entire large home. Typically they heat or cool bedroom or living area, not an entire house.
It would be more cost effective for a homeowner with central heating through ductwork to add an air conditioning system. Newer units are becoming quite efficient, though not the same way as minisplits.
Have a chat with the top two or three HVAC companies in your area to learn more.
 

JanS

Attaché
Inner Circle
Keep in mind JanS JanS that asking homeowners to install heat pumps (I call them minisplits) is a very big ask. They can become quite pricey if converting an entire large home. Typically they heat or cool bedroom or living area, not an entire house.
It would be more cost effective for a homeowner with central heating through ductwork to add an air conditioning system. Newer units are becoming quite efficient, though not the same way as minisplits.
Have a chat with the top two or three HVAC companies in your area to learn more.
Hi Jim,
Sounds like you might live in an area with cold winters. I live in the PNW, and have talked with several HVAC companies here. Heat pumps are the most efficient system for my area. The appropriate system does depend on the climate and system already in use, for sure.

I think my point is that investing in an energy efficient system that heats and cools is a singularly impactful upgrade. By combining rebates with the annual cost savings we can not only reduce our carbon footprint over the life of the home, but save money over the long run as well.

Jan
 

StacyW

Counselor
Inner Circle
Accelerator
This week had me at Kaizen - great topic! I want to go through this thread in detail to read about the wins.

My problem was: Not all guests were reading arrival info in my guidebook. They would call near arrival and sound concerned,
confused or annoyed. "Why were guests not studying my lovely guest guide" I kept wondering? A better question turned out to be
"What could I do to improve their experience?".

In Kaizen ask the question five times to get to the root of the problem.
  • the email was being sent too early, no one cares about this two weeks before
  • we all feel email bombed, people just don't always reliably read emails
  • the critical arrival info was buried in my guest guide. Not really buried, but if they open the email and don't open the guest guide, that is still failure mode
  • when guests leave their cell service area and are roaming, they turn off data to avoid charges and probably check email only when in WiFi
  • some guests actually pledge to not read one single email once they are on vacation (good for them! I know they will have a great visit with that attitude)
All of this resulted in a new communication process. I switched to a Just in Time approach. Give them only the info they need at the right moment when they need it.
  • Upon booking, I email a nice thank you along with a digital guest guidebook. I also outline exactly what to expect for subsequent communication
  • Two weeks before arrival, I email my digital guest guidebook link and any updates on the area.
  • Two days before, I switch to text with a link to the guest book, this time on their phone extracting the one sentence of key arrival info and putting it in the text
  • the evening before arrival, I send a text asking for their estimated ETA - nothing else
  • the morning of arrival, the REALLY critical day for dialled-up communication, I provide a brief recap of just the code number and where they will park-nothing else.
This is working. No more concerning questions about "how do I get in" from guests? No more tracking down guests for ETA on our end.

For my new website refresh, I went through all the reviews from all sites this week. Excellent communication was probably the second review comment next to the great location and view.
Love this Susanne, guests never read anything, but I agree with the timing part. We might need to revamp what gets sent and when and what medium. Thanks for the great info!
 

Karla

Karla, Owner of Tropical Blessings
Inner Circle
I’ve pondered this question about a recent test that succeeded or failed and I have recently conducted additional new tests I’ll detail a couple of those later. I’ve been doing all sorts of tests since I became a VR owner in 2011. I’d describe the succession and continuum of little tests to be subsets part of the Big Test that has spanned a decade. By now I’m convinced my series of ongoing little tests will never stop but some readers might wonder what the Big Test is.

I’m sure all understand in the meaning dreams come true in their own way. Owning a place on St. John was became one of the biggest dreams come true of my life and and I hoped for it for so many years with major doubts that it would happen.

To shorten the tale of tests when the dream come true I’ll qualify it by saying I never expected ownership of a place on St. John to land me in the vacation rental industry but that’s what happened and with it came unexpected challenges too so my dream come true changed shape and resulted in the Big Test: A dream come true has come to fruition but it’s not what at all and, Uh Oh, it comes with a Big Test: I need to find out out if I can sustain my dream come true,maintain it, nourish it, succeed with it and still love it as much as I thought I would.

As I recently contemplated that Big Test I surprising found myself recalling Alice in Wonderland by L. C. Carroll and how Alice fell down a rabbit hole and ended up in a new and unknown world. Why on earth did Alice come to mind? Because entering the vacation world turned out to be just like falling down a rabbit hole and the many lessons Alice learned in Wonderland are surprisingly similar to my own. So what did Alice encounter and learn along her way?

1) The Cheshire Cat told Alice, “We’re all mad,” not angry, not totally unhinged, just “mad.” We all have our own unique quirks that make us who we are. Once we accept these quirks as character traits that make us who we are the sooner we can move beyond them and take charge of the realities we create.

2) Life can be much muchier! If your madness has been stolen away from you by one thing or another you can reclaim it and be much more muchier tomorrow.

3) Be a wildflower rather than a wallflower. Instead of simply existing be a wildflower and set out to become who you want to be and do what you really want to do.

4) Dream of impossible things. Alice adopted the habit of dreaming of six impossible things before before breakfast every day. If you get “curiouser and curiouser” you can move beyond what other people define as difficult. Nobody else gets to define what’s impossible for Alice, for me, and for you. Dreaming of impossible might seem absurd but setting high goal and striving to meet them is sometimes a great idea, at least I’ve found that to be true. Nobody else in my life gets permission to decide what is possible or impossible for me.

5) You are a different person today than the one you were yesterday. Whether or not I want to be a better person today is my own choice.

6) Sometimes you need to fall down a rabbit hole to get where you need to be. On your way down you might bump your head or get a bit bruised up
 
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